Electrical contractor, LA county official sentenced for bribery

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A public official in Los Angeles County’s Internal Services Department and an electrical contractor have been sentenced to federal prison terms for accepting and offering nearly $300,000 in bribes. County employee Mohammad R. Tirmazi was also convicted of failing to report the income he received from those bribes and a side business on his federal tax returns.

He accepted bribes from Enrique Contreras, 40, of Newbury Park, the owner of Tel-Pro Voice & Data, Inc., a vendor that performed low voltage electrical wiring for the county. From late 2014 to 2016, the owner of Tel-Pro paid defendant with cash, checks and gifts. In sum, the bribes totaled $299,707, the US Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California said in a statement.

Contreras received a two-year federal prison sentence for bribing two LA County officials from U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner, who also ordered  him to to serve three years on supervised release following his time in prison and pay restitution of $821,000, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The same judge also sentenced Tirmazi, 51, of Upland, on July 23. He ordered Tirmazi to pay $420,010 in restitution to the County of Los Angeles and the Internal Revenue Service.

In May 2019, Tirmazi pleaded guilty to a two-count information charging him with federal program bribery and subscribing to a false tax return.

Tirmazi worked for the county, first as a supervising telecom engineer and then in 2016 as a section manager for the voice video and application division of the county’s Internal Services Department.

In exchange for the bribes, Tirmazi approved change orders requested by Contreras for, among other things, work that did not occur and materials that were not used on county projects.

Tirmazi did not report, or did not force Contreras to correct, violations of the county’s Building and Safety Code or the National Electrical Code that Tirmazi uncovered during inspections of Tel-Pro’s work. Some of those violations related to asbestos removal and Tel-Pro’s failure to properly install cables. Tirmazi admitted in his plea agreement that he generally considered Tel-Pro’s work to be “shoddy,” but he overlooked its poor work because of the bribes Contreras paid him.

Tirmazi formed a Whittier-based company called TEQ Solutions, LLC as a way to conceal bribe payments from Contreras, court filings state. Contreras, who bribed Tirmazi with cash and gifts, also paid Tirmazi with checks made payable to TEQ Solutions that were disguised to look like payment for legitimate services rendered. Because TEQ Solutions did no work for Contreras or Tel-Pro, the checks were nothing more than bribes.

To hide his ownership of TEQ Solutions, Tirmazi used a third party to file the business paperwork and open a bank account. To lower TEQ Solutions’ taxable income, and thus keep more of the bribe money he received, Tirmazi issued sham IRS Form 1099s to make it appear as though other individuals had received income from TEQ Solutions for work legitimately performed.

Tirmazi failed to report on his tax returns for years 2014 to 2016 a total of $355,107 of income he received from bribe payments and a side business selling IT equipment.

Contreras pleaded guilty in May 2019 to federal program bribery and subscribing to a false tax return. He admitted in his plea agreement that he failed to report a total of $636,454 of income he received from 2013 to 2017 as a result of his improper deduction of bribe payments and other personal expenses.

In his plea agreement, Contreras also admitted to bribing two county officials—Tirmazi and Thomas J. Shepos, 70, of Palmdale, a public official formerly employed by the county in the Real Estate Division. Shepos pleaded guilty in November 2018 to accepting bribes and is scheduled to be sentenced on December 7. Contreras’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for July 27.

From 2013 to 2016, Contreras made cash payments to Shepos, totaling approximately $200,000 to $300,000, in exchange for Shepos providing non-public county information to Contreras and helping Contreras secure county contracts.

One of the individuals from whom Shepos admitting receiving bribes was real estate developer Arman Gabaee, 59, of Beverly Hills. Gabaee was arrested and subsequently indicted on federal bribery charges in 2018. His trial is currently scheduled for November 3 before United States District Judge George H. Wu.

Tirmazi, Contreras, and Shepos have agreed to cooperate with federal investigators.

These cases were investigated by the FBI and IRS Criminal Investigation.

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